Join Date: Oct 2013
Location: I'm an American girl living in southwest France
I'm a beginner, but I've dealt with all those issues these ways under the guidance of my well-qualified instructor:
For flapping legs, I focus on keeping light contact with the inside of my knees on the pads (I ride English, but I assume you can do the same in Western even without pads there). When I focus on the knees, the legs just kind of follow along and stop banging around. Also I make sure I'm pressing down with the heels a bit which also helps. If you forget the heel part, you'll lose a stirrup easy and then holy flapping legs. Flopping body is more like it.
For the foot too far back, it could be happening because you're off center (not balanced on both butt bones equally) and/or leaning your torso forward. Try to focus on leaning back a bit and centering your weight over both butt bones, and your legs should move forward to compensate for the new balance. When nervous or unsure, it's normal to move into fetal position (leaning forward) which throws the leg position off.
When you ask for the canter, were are your heels/legs and what do your reins look like? Outside heel (one closest to rail) should be touching just behind the girth strap, inside leg should be on the girth, the outside rein should be shorter than the inside rein. At least, that's how I was taught (English)! Now the horse can feel when I start moving things around (rein on outside shortening, crop to inside, etc.) and he takes off at a simple touch behind the girth. I actually have to hold him back from taking off too early; my seat is way too obvious at communicating sometimes.
In the beginning, it took more heel and even a crop whack or two to start him going and to keep him going. Now, not so much. Every once in a while he will test me and just make sure I still mean it when I say "go and keep going". :) haha silly horse.
Apply pressure to the barrel, to me, means squeezing with the calves, heels in. You don't literally wrap your legs around the barrel of the horse. Or maybe other people do, but I don't. :) I guess if you had really long legs it might feel like that's what you're doing, but my legs are pretty short.
I think the method of getting a horse to move forward is just like any of those other training methods ... the ones that say you first ask politely, then more firmly, then even more so, and then you insist. Give the horse a "good deal" as Buck Brannaman says and then if he doesn't take your good deal, show him it's not optional with more pressure.
So, you first squeeze with calves (asking politely, the "good deal") and maybe a verbal cue, then tap heels in regular rhythm (asking more firmly), kicking heels in rhythm (asking even more firmly) and last, a whack on the rump with the crop (insisting). You stop any of these as soon as you get what you asked for (aka "release of pressure"); that way, he knows he did what you wanted and learns that this is the signal for forward movement.
Eventually, after living through this escalation of pressure a few times, your horse should respond with just a little squeeze or even just a slight shift in your seat instead of needing all that insisting stuff from you.
But in the beginning, until he gets to know your signals, it might take a lot of insisting to start. Just be consistent and don't get frustrated if he doesn't get it for a while. And never let the horse decide when you go and when you stop. Do it over and over until they get it right.
“When I bestride him, I soar, I am a hawk: he trots the air; the earth sings when he touches it; the basest horn of his hoof is more musical than the pipe of Hermes. ” ~ William Shakespeare